How much for a new mascot? Selma Middle School expense raises questions

Posted March 29, 2018 2:19 p.m. EDT
Updated March 29, 2018 4:41 p.m. EDT

— The decision to spend several thousand dollars to replace the mascot at a Johnston County middle school is raising eyebrows, as some believe the money could be better spent on more important educational needs.

The Johnston County Board of Education voted 5-2 last week to change the mascot at Selma Middle School from the Vikings to the “Railblazers.”

School officials said the decision is rooted in the school’s participation in the Restart program, which allows low-performing schools to adopt charter school-like flexibilities including extending the school day and using funds in ways not designated by the state.

Deputy Superintendent Eddie Price said the new mascot is an effort to unify the school with the history and culture of Selma.

The “Railblazers” mascot was chosen after a series of surveys, but board member Ronald Johnson pointed out that the surveys did not include the option to keep the current mascot.

Johnson and board member Teresa Grant, unsuccessfully asked board members to hold off on approving the mascot change, saying he wanted a more complete understanding of the costs.

“I want to be thorough in this when we’re talking about spending thousands of dollars. If we start talking $30,000, $40,000, $50,000 to change this, regardless of where the money comes from, I’m just not sure now is the right time given we have all these safety and security needs,” he said.

Price initially said he believed the cost to paint over existing murals and replace signage at the school would be “a very minimal cost,” but a district spokesperson on Thursday estimated the cost would be between $10,000 and $14,000.

Johnson, however, estimated the cost could be closer to about $50,000, with the need to replace things like uniforms, the paint colors in the school gym and the school website.

Johnson said that the school instead needs a resource officer, new computers and new furniture.

"If a teacher is operating in a class that doesn't have the proper equipment, whether it be a computer, furniture or any type of supply, I think that has a far greater impact on morale than whatever mascot is on the wall," Johnson said.

District spokeswoman Crystal Roberts said that no money has been spent, the board has only approved the mascot change. She also pointed out that any money allocated toward the mascot change would be spent over time, not all at once.

"We will not take away from the academic and curriculum programs that our students need," she said. "This is a district of excellence, so the money that will be spent over time on the mascot change will not affect our academic programming."

In a statement, district officials said they would be able to save money during the process of changing the mascot by allowing a vendor to phase in new uniforms, For each changed uniform, a current vendor will donate $1,000 worth of athletic supplies as well as a scorer's table to the school, district officials said.